What's Made Brooklyn Famous (Has Made a Loser Out of Me)


Sunday's New York Times brought word of the latest twist in the saga of New York's Brooklyn Brewery and its president Steve Hindy, purveyors of various fine beers, including the great Black Chocolate Stout. Back in 1996, Hindy and partner Tom Potter set up shop at a former matzo ball factory in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, then a mostly rundown industrial neighborhood but today a thriving hipster paradise, replete with bars, gourmet shops, and luxury condos. The only problem is that now the brewery can't afford to stay. So Hindy looked to city officials for help:

He and his partners are willing to spend $15 million for a bigger brewery that would employ at least twice as many workers as he has now and would have a beer garden where customers could sample his growing roster of specialty brews. But after four years of searching and two failed bids to be included in redevelopment projects in Red Hook and Carroll Gardens, they have not found a suitable building in the borough at a feasible price.


Mr. Hindy has plenty of company in the hunt for affordable industrial land. Manufacturing space has become scarcer and more expensive as city officials have encouraged developers to replace crumbling factories and warehouses with amenity-laden condominiums.

As the Times notes, Hindy had been a vocal supporter of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's controversial 2005 rezoning of Williamsburg and neighboring Greenpoint, a process he now says left him in the dust:

We have seven more years on our lease in Williamsburg, and we would love to stay in this neighborhood. We worked hard in support of the administration's rezoning of this area in the hope that it would include "industrial zones" that would enable us to stay here among the residential zones that were enabled on vacant industrial land.

The industrial zones that finally were approved included language allowing hotels and other commercial businesses to locate here. One property adjacent to our brewery just rented for between $15 and $20 a foot. It will house a performance space and a bowling alley…. It is hard to make money brewing beer on land that rents for $20 a foot. Property owners are hoping that eventually they will be able to claim hardship and get their properties rezoned for residential.

There's a cautionary tale or two here about getting in bed with city officials and their shady real estate allies, but the worst of it has been Hindy's support for controversial developer and New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner, the driving force behind the atrocious Atlantic Yards project, a massive boondoggle that, if realized, will produce a taxpayer-subsidized basketball arena for Ratner's Nets along with various office buildings and luxury complexes that will displace more than 40 business owners and tenants via eminent domain and other measures.

Still, what do you expect from the wolf's lair of New York's corrupt and massively regulated real estate market? As Hindy admitted to the New York Observer last year, "Things like the development at Coney Island and things like Atlantic Yards—that's what we have to work with, and we have to make the best of it."